Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1983. Paramount Pictures, Cinema Group Ventures.
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Norman Wexler, based on characters created by Nik Cohn. Cinematography by Nick McLean. Produced by Sylvester Stallone, Robert Stigwood. Music by The Bee Gees, Johnny Mandel. Production Design by Robert F. Boyle. Costume Design by Tom Bronson. Film Editing by Peter E. Berger, Mark Warner, Don Zimmerman. Golden Globe Awards 1983.
The success of Saturday Night Fever makes it wholly unsurprising that the studio would go for a sequel, but the distance between the two films really is a marvel to behold. Sylvester Stallone co-writes and directs this shallow but colourful musical in which Tony Manero (John Travolta at his physical peak) has left Brooklyn to pursue the bright lights of Broadway. He was a big fish in a small pond back home, now that he’s auditioning for shows on the Great White Way he’s finding himself struggling just to be noticed, auditioning for shows that keep rejecting his clearly superior dancing talents and keeping himself afloat by teaching dance classes with his girlfriend (Cynthia Rhodes) by day and serving drinks at a club by night. When he meets Finola Hughes, the star of a show that Rhodes is chorus-lining in and falls in lust with her, they initiate an affair that is then followed by him joining the cast of Hughes’ next Broadway show. Their little affair does him some good when the intended lead is fired and Tony is conveniently given his spot in a plot worthy of the worst Mickey and Judy musicals, dressed up in headbands and leotards with the neon lights shining bright in a film that is flashy, at times campy and, most disappointing, incredibly shallow. The giant musical number that caps the whole thing off is incredibly bizarre, and in a throwback to Busby Berkeley movies is something that simply couldn’t be done on a stage, but the film’s most dated elements would be forgivable if it had the original film’s sincere heart and honesty about its darker elements. Stallone never manages to go beneath the surface here, constructing a silly love triangle without ever forcing his main character to investigate the insecurity that is at the heart of is overestimating his own appeal, or having him even confront the ambition that is behind his attraction to Hughes in the first place.